James Wan’s most interesting and artistically successful film since the original Saw goes back to basics, delivering an incredibly effective haunted house tale, with some added ghost hunter fun thrown in for good measure. Perhaps because of the infuriating Insidious films, which Wan directed either side of this similar yet superior period effort, Wan has garnered a reputation in some circles as a filmmaker who makes horror movies for “people who don’t watch horror movies.”
While I see little real worth in his other recent films, The Conjuring is both incredibly entertaining and consistently scary, creating a wonderfully chilling sense of mood, rather than simply relying on carefully engineering jump scares the way he does in Insidious. While the film really does nothing new, that is not to say that the film is neither good nor successful. Wan understands exactly how to build tension and wring every ounce of atmosphere out of a typically isolated and creaking old house. He also populates his film with plenty of accomplished performers, in this case cating Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston as the parents of five young daughters who move into the tormented abode, while Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.